WHEELING — Mary Jo Graebe knows personally what Camp Kno Koma — a summer camp for children with diabetes in Greenbrier County — means for those kids who attend. She has been a part of the camp’s volunteer medical staff for years. Her grandson is one of those campers.
So when it came to her Lions Club, and other Lions Clubs around the Northern Panhandle, coming together to donate to a worthy cause, Graebe found the camp to be a perfect beneficiary.
Local Lions Clubs presented Camp Kno Koma board members with checks totaling $7,000 on Wednesday at WesBanco Arena.
Of that total, $6,000 was gathered through efforts among Lions Clubs in Wheeling, Moundsville, Wheeling Island, Dallas, Elm Grove, Warwood, Mount Olivet, West Liberty and the Ohio County Virtual Club. District 29L of the state’s Lions Clubs added another $1,000.
The original fundraising goal, Graebe said, was $3,000, and she was overjoyed the clubs were able to double that.
“It did my heart very good,” she said. “Camp Kno Koma is near and dear to my heart. The Lions Clubs have been instrumental. Anything to help kids is just 100% satisfying.”
The clubs’ main fundraiser was a no-quarter auction that garnered sponsors such as Bordas & Bordas, Miklas Meat Market, Glessner & Associates, Tractor Supply in Elm Grove and others. The district then added the extra donation.
Camp Kno Koma began in West Virginia in 1950 and has grown from 33 campers to more than 160.
The camp went dormant over the last two years due to COVID-19, but is back for the kids this summer.
The camp allows children with Type 1 diabetes to congregate with other children who deal with the disease. They can enjoy the same types of activities every kid camper enjoys — swimming, fishing, dances, sports and more — and their parents can be confident that camp staff knows exactly what their children’s needs are. Camp counselors and medical staff take time to educate campers about the disease and how to manage it. Medical staff also makes sure to take blood tests, count carbs, adjust insulin and other tasks to keep them healthy.
“We focus on fun,” Graebe said. “The medical staff keeps them safe and they learn not only how to handle their disease, but they get to have fun and just be kids for the week.”
Kenny Porter, a member of the Camp Kno Koma board of directors said the camp is a wonderful opportunity for children with Type 1 diabetes to spend time with other children who know what they’re going through, and that shared experience is important.
“It’s a great feeling to know the community supports the camp and tries to make a difference in the lives of these children,” he said.
“These children have a hard time dealing with life and diabetes. A lot of times they don’t know other kids who have diabetes, and they come to camp and realize that they’re not alone.”